Triage: activist art with a mission 

Using poetry, painting and music as vehicles for peace

Sarah Zuckerman and T.J. Reynolds were in Oaxaca, Mexico, last June when teachers took to the streets demanding pay increases and, after an assault from local police, the resignation of Gov. Ulises Ruiz Ortiz. “With that riot came a tremendous amount of artwork addressing different social issues,” Zuckerman says. “We were really inspired by the art being used in a social context. We wanted to bring that idea to Indianapolis.”

Driven by their inspiration and fueled with a desire for a peaceful exchange of ideas, Zuckerman and Reynolds — along with Kelly Thomas, Lisa Barton and Katie Burk — have been working with artists of all genres to organize Triage, an activist art event set to take place in Fountain Square this Saturday, June 30, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. The day will consist of visual art that confronts the issues of war, global warming and social injustice, while also including performance art, spoken word, a documentary and a music show that night at Radio Radio.

“We’re expecting some really blatant anti-war messages, some really strong global warming subject matter,” Zuckerman says.

“I think a lot of people will be into it,” Reynolds adds. “I think there will be some people who are taken aback by the work, too. The whole point is to inspire people to learn more about different issues. And artwork is a powerful way to stir people’s emotions.”

Approximately 90 artists, musicians, poets and dancers will participate in Triage. Among them:

• The Sisters of St. Francis, who work for social justice and will be exhibiting a large four-paneled painting.

• The BRIDGE Collective, a “bunch of young cutting-edge artists,” Reynolds says. They will construct a 10-foot modern windmill with three panels made of collaborative work from BRIDGE Collective artists dealing with the central themes of the event. Their gallery, City Natives Fine Art & Tattoo Gallery (874 Virginia Ave.), will also host a DJ, spoken word performances and additional artwork while live graffiti art will be created outside.

• Chris Tranni, a documentary filmmaker, will show his short film on the plight of Mexican citizens in Ciudad Juarez, focusing on their displacement and struggles of living in extreme poverty as the land they have lived on for centuries is encroached upon by the corrupt and affluent.

• Tasha Jones, a local poet who teaches at-risk children about poetry, will host an open mic.

• Children’s activities will also be provided by Sarah Gore, an IPS kindergarten teacher at the Key Learning Community.

“We definitely want to make it a family-friendly event,” Reynolds says. “We’re not trying to censor artists but we wanted them to know it’s something that’s going to be in the public. The main target audience in a way is children because they are the people who will inherit what we are doing to the world.”

But in the end, the art is just a vehicle to convey the central themes of Triage. “We ask that people don’t bring artwork to sell. It’s not an outdoor art fair. It’s a demonstration.”

Zuckerman hopes Triage and the concerns expressed through it will remain in the public consciousness for some time. The event will be documented by filmmakers and the work may be showcased in a gallery afterwards. “There will be some aftermath to this,” she says. “There will be a part two.”

WHAT: Triage, an activist art event

WHERE: Fountain Square

WHEN: Saturday, June 30, 10 a.m.-6 p.m.

After Triage

While Triage comes to an end Saturday evening, the spirit of the demonstration takes a different form in a concert that night at Radio Radio. “The wonderful thing about Triage is that it will approach the multifaceted concept of peace, justice and the environment in a way that integrates the multifaceted aspects of culture — visual art, dance and music,” says Sarah Grain, one of several musical acts set to perform.

Among those sharing the night with the Sarah Grain Trio are hip-hop act the Black Soil Project, bluegrass group Men of Many Vices, electronic artist Bala vs. Laptop and Mab Lab’s Kate Lamont. “All of the musicians and songwriters participating in Triage were invited because they always write and perform for peace, justice and the environment,” Grain explains. “These musicians are called to music for unselfish motives — not for glory or self-actualization, but because they see their work as their social responsibility to humanity and the earth.”

Other artistic forms will be represented through the night. T.J. Reynolds will be one of several poets reading during the event, and there will be a dance performance by Jaclyn Virgin and Megan Mills. The BRIDGE Collective will also hold an auction for the 10-foot windmill they construct during the day.

“Each of the arts represent different learning styles,” Grain says of the variety of genres represented at Triage. “No one art can have an edge over the others because people will empathize and understand the social issues based on their personal learning style. What makes this event so strong is that it appeals to all people and the way they learn and experience life, so no person is isolated or disenfranchised.”

The concert begins at 9 p.m. Radio Radio is located at 1119 E. Prospect St. and admission is $5. All proceeds from the door benefit the Hoosier Environmental Council while funds raised by the BRIDGE Collective auction will be split evenly between Triage and the HEC.


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